Choose a cover art style – photoshop it, or illustrate it?

March 24, 2015 | By | Reply More

You can roughly divide current book cover art into different styles:

(1) Illustrated Cover

This is where an illustrator draws and then colours a scene taken from the novel. This is relatively expensive and takes time, as a talented artist has to devote anything from a week to a month to create the cover art, which is then integrated into the design of the book jacket by a studio – with other elements such as descriptive back-page text, title, author’s name and bar code added later.

The advantage of this method is that the cover will contain a scene that references what actually happens in the novel.

Here’s an example by my illustrator, Stefano Trainito, which is being used on ‘Secrets of the Moon’ – the 3rd novella in my Mrs Witchley thriller series, as well as the omnibus edition for all 3 books (shown below), both editions coming out in a month or two.

From this …

Pencil Rough for cover (click to see it full size).

Pencil Rough for cover (click to see it full size).

… to this …

Click this image to make it big.

Click this image to make it big.

If you vote for this option, I’ll ask Stefano to draw a number of pencil roughs featuring various scenes from the horror book, and ask you to vote on which image to work up into the final cover art.

(2) Photoshopped Cover

This method seems to dominate the book market in terms of current cover styles. Why? I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s relatively cheap! All you need is to source some half-decent stock photos from one of the hundreds of on-line image libraries out there, pay a professional designer to manipulate it for you with Photoshop, and bingo. One cover for not very much. If you have bought any of my recent Far-called fantasy novels from Gollancz, check the inside pages where the copyright information is. You’ll see a tiny credit in 6-point sized type given to a design studio who Photoshopped the image, and the stock art library where the original images were sourced.

The main disadvantage of this method is that it is difficult to exactly match a scene from the novel – so you usually get slightly generic images that would work just as well with another author’s book.

Here’s some examples of Photoshopped cover variations done for another author – in this case, Joe Conlan’s horror thriller ‘Nameless’.






If you vote for this option, I’ll ask my design studio to create a number of cover variants for the horror book, and ask you to vote on which photoshopped variation will go through to the final cover.

Which cover art style do you want for the horror novel?

  • Photoshop the cover (76%, 182 Votes)
  • Hire an illustrator. (24%, 59 Votes)

Total Voters: 241

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Category: The Novel, Voting & Announcements

About the Author ()

I have been working as a full-time author publishing fantasy and science fiction novels for HarperCollins for the last seven years.

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